This headline is completely misleading. Unlike nearly everyone I know, I rather enjoyed Scott Smith’s The Ruins, the incredibly bleak follow-up novel to his equally bleak A Simple Plan. Though the book doesn’t quite do "for vacations in Mexico what Jaws did for beach weekends on Long Island" as Stephen King logrolling-ly claimed, it is a pretty effective combination of psychological and body horror. The narrative follows four carefree American college students vacationing in Mexico who impulsively accompany a German tourist they’ve befriended into a dense expanse of jungle. Ostensibly, they’re searching for the German’s brother, but, as a matter of fact, the quarrelsome Americans are really just avoiding conflict and emotional growth. The group eventually runs afoul of some Mayans, who force them to camp out on top of some eerie ruins protected by sentient, parasitic vines. Things gradually go from bad to worse to hopeless.
The Ruins is no masterpiece, but, with Smith adapting his novel as he did with A Simple Plan, it could be a sensationally effective horror flick. The news that Jonathan Tucker – the murderous brat from Hostage – has been cast as the arrogant, sort-of protagonist, Jeff, doesn’t really inspire or disappoint. This project doesn’t need recognizable stars; it just needs an imaginative director who isn’t going to CG the vines and fall back on stock thriller setups. I don’t know that commercial/music video auteur Carter B. Smith is that guy, but it looks like he’ll definitely be calling action when principal photography begins this May in Queensland, Australia. Much as I enjoyed the novel, my expectations are muted.